Medical boards taken to task for lax discipline

July 1, 2005

State medical boards may be turning a blind eye to physicians who abuse drugs or alcohol or violate the terms of their medical license, according to a series of articles on physician discipline in The Washington Post (4/10–11/05). But the District of Columbia seems to be an especially "forgiving place" for physicians who are known to have troubled practices.

State medical boards may be turning a blind eye to physicians who abuse drugs or alcohol or violate the terms of their medical license, according to a series of articles on physician discipline in The Washington Post (4/10–11/05). But the District of Columbia seems to be an especially "forgiving place" for physicians who are known to have troubled practices.

Looking at medical board records and statistics from the Federation of State Medical Boards between 1999 and 2004, The Washington Post found that the D.C. medical board failed to take disciplinary action against 26 physicians with known substance-abuse problems, even though six of those doctors lost their licenses in other states. More than a dozen physicians who were disciplined for criminal convictions, sexual misconduct, or questionable medical care in the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia also went unpunished in the District. In one instance, an ob/gyn who allowed his nurse to conduct obstetrical exams on patients in his absence was reprimanded and fined $10,000 by the Maryland board; the D.C. board took no action against his license.

In addition, the D.C. board has a poor record for disciplining physicians. Out of 318 complaints made against District physicians, only four resulted in disciplinary action. And although the board voted to take action against the licenses of several doctors for various infractions, it failed to follow through on a number of its decisions-allowing the physicians to continue to practice.